It’s shocking, it’s devastating, it’s heartbreak. This is a part of life that everyone experiences at one point or another. It can occur at any point in your life, but what do you do when you’re a young adult in college? Even bigger question, how do you deal with heartbreak, especially when you live in the same environment as your former lover?
Heartbreak isn’t just listening to Taylor Swift, crying uncontrollably, drinking on a week night and sending too many texts to too many people. There is a scientific reason for why we react to break-ups. It is a loss after all.
In 2010, researches at Rutgers University conducted a study where they chose 10 women and 7 men who were in love but recently experienced a break-up with a romantic partner. They asked the volunteers to look at pictures of their ex’s while they were inside an fMRI machine, and they observed the brain patterns. The research found that the brain activity was like those going through cocaine withdrawal. This is because falling in love releases dopamine in the brain, which is a feel-good hormone. When you go through a break-up, you’re quickly taking away a constant source of something that feels good, which like a drug-addict, it makes your body and brain want more.
With breaking up and drug withdrawal being so similar, it means your body and mind’s reaction will react the same way. Without the dopamine your brain scrambles to feel that pleasure again, sending you into overdrive to fulfill that craving, causing you to drunk text your ex. You may also experience, very real, physical symptoms such as nausea, trouble breathing or literal heart ache. It’s all relevant, and it’s all very real.
The good news is that it’s all temporary, but that doesn’t make it suck any less in the moment. According to a study done by “The Journal of Positive Psychology,” it took three months, roughly 11 weeks, for 71% of the 155 participants to see the positive aspects of their break-up. After that amount of time, participants began reporting that they felt they grew from the break-up and that they could productively reflect. So, if you feel like your pain won’t ever end, science will tell you that it does. Still, people move through break ups and pain at their own pace. It may take longer or shorter for you to work through your heartbreak, but you can still find comfort in the fact that it is temporary.
Now that we know the science behind heartbreak, we wonder what the point of all that information is. Well for starters, it offers and explanation for your behavior and your feelings. There really is a reason for everything, hopefully knowing why you’re acting how you’re acting will help ground you and offer comfort. But it still doesn’t fix how cruddy you feel, especially when you live on the same campus as your ex.
Dating in college is so fun, until it isn’t. Suddenly, the campus seems too small. All your regular spots don’t seem as safe. You’re left questioning if you’re going to see them and how you’re supposed to act when you do see them. It doesn’t make mending the broken heart any easier. What are you to do? Here are some tips from people going through, or have gone through, the same thing.
- Cry and then breathe
Go ahead and cry. Ugly cry to your friends, your Netflix subscription and for yourself. You’re not crying over your ex; you’re crying for yourself. Cry because you are hurt, and you allowed yourself to believe you could build a future with this person. Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re a good person that had the ability to feel something as powerful and vulnerable as love.
- Move on at your own pace
You’re going to get through this in your own time, in your own way. Feel what you need to feel when you feel it. Don’t bottle it up, don’t “get over it” when you aren’t ready. Some days are going to be better than others, relish in those moments. The sooner you are honest with yourself with what you’re feeling and work through that, the sooner you’ll feel better.
- Be kind and be respectful
You’re going to see your ex. Universities aren’t big enough when it comes to this. It’s going to suck. Your heart will race, and you’ll be convinced that you’re going to vomit, but it’s okay. Be kind and respectful. Take the space you need and give them their space too – even if your brain tells you to talk to them. Don’t be rude, be courteous. Remember those manners your mom spent years drilling into your head.
- Don’t text them
I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We aren’t proud. If you need to put your phone in the fridge to prevent yourself from texting your ex – do it. Maybe it’s not the most mature move, but it’s better than texting your ex. If you do text your ex, though, no one will judge you if you blame the dopamine withdrawal.
- Remember that it’s going to be okay
It sucks right now. You just lost a huge part in your life. That is a big deal. You’re human for feeling hurt, angry and sad. Whether you believe in the science, or the simplicity that time heals all, your pain is temporary, and you will survive… even if you doubt you will.
Seeing your ex every day, doesn’t help your pain. I don’t think there is a single person that will feel differently. There is so much to be said regarding heartbreak and how to soothe it. There is no right or wrong way to get through a hard time, especially something as powerful as heartbreak. Just remember to take care of yourself. The sun will still set and rise, time will continue to move, and your pain will fade and heal. In the meantime, listen to the playlist we’ve created about heartbreak.